Week 11 scouting report: Wisconsin

An elite defense and All-American running back stand in Iowa’s way of securing a road upset.


Iowa cornerback Miles Taylor tackles Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor during Iowa's game against Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017. The badgers defeated the Hawkeyes 38-14. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Robert Read, Assistant Sports Editor

The margin for error is slim in any college football game. For Iowa this weekend against No. 16 Wisconsin, it may be none.

The matchup is in all reality an elimination game for the Big Ten West title, and the Hawkeyes will have their hands full against a tough Wisconsin team.

The Badgers got out to a hot start this season with a 6-0 record. Wisconsin now stands at 6-2 after dropping its last two contests to Illinois and Ohio State. Despite the losing streak, Wisconsin presents the type of team that will be tough for the Hawkeyes to upset on the road.

The Iowa offense — which has struggled against top-tier opponents this season — will face what may be its toughest test against Wisconsin.

The Badgers’ defense is among the best in college football. Wisconsin ranks sixth nationally, allowing only 11.4 points per game, and it has recorded four shutouts this season. Opposing offenses have only gained 225.6 yards per game against Wisconsin this season, the second-best mark by a defense in the country.

As if those marks aren’t intimidating enough, Wisconsin has scored four touchdowns on defense this season — two interception returns and two fumble recoveries — and ranks fourth in the nation with 32 sacks on the season.

Wisconsin seemingly has no weaknesses on defense. The Badgers boast talented players at every level.

Aside from a 38-7 loss to Ohio State, a team has not scored more than 25 points on Wisconsin this season.

The dominant Badger defense is complemented by a run-first offense led by Jonathan Taylor. The All-American junior running back has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the third-straight season and is tied for fourth in the country with 15 rushing touchdowns.

Taylor crossed the 5,000-yard rushing mark earlier this season and through eight games has already set a career-high with 19 total touchdowns.

With Taylor leading the way, Wisconsin has bullied opponents on the ground this season.


Against Michigan — a team Iowa failed to score a touchdown against — Taylor ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns, including this 72-yards scamper for six.

The play design is sharp and was perfectly executed as most Wisconsin run plays are. The motion by the inside receiver vacated a defender from the left side of the field, and two pulling offensive linemen cleared enough real estate for Taylor to burst up the field all the way to the end zone.

That running attack has allowed Wisconsin to dominate in time of possession. The Badgers average 36 minutes per game on offense this season, the top mark in college football.

Wisconsin has been efficient in the passing game, as well, to complement that rushing attack. Led by quarterback Jack Coan, Wisconsin spreads the ball out through the air. Six different players on the Badgers’ offense have over 15 receptions.

Trying to contain Taylor is an obvious point of emphasis for trying to stop the Wisconsin offense. Another is rushing the passer. Ohio State’s Chase Young took over against the Badgers, appearing unblockable, as he notched four sacks and five tackles for loss.

Young is among the best players in college football, and he’s is a handful to block off of the edge. Similarly, A.J. Epenesa is the star pass rusher on Iowa’s defense and should also give Wisconsin fits. Epenesa and Young have different styles of play — Young’s more reliant on his speed and Epenesa utilizes elite power — but both are nightmares for offensive coordinators.

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